Manipulation: Offense Vs Defence

You read stories in the news about people being manipulated to turn against their own country, government, business, friends or family. What you don’t get to hear about are the tactics used to target and manipulate the individual’s emotional/ psychological vulnerabilities.

In this case: Lonetree was a US Marine who was targeted by and began working for the KGB. Like his name suggests, Lonetree was lonely… what we’ve provided you with are key insights into loneliness and the likely tactics which were used to exploit his vulnerability.

Following this: We provide you with a set of defence based insights which could have been used to protect Lonetree from being exploited.

Objective: This article should provide you with the insight required to better consider how your own emotional vulnerabilities might be used against you. With respect to protecting yourself against manipulation, self awareness and self knowledge being the basis for a solid defence.

Psychological Rationale & Recommendations: Turning Lonetree:


“Loneliness is an emotion characterized by the feeling of pain caused by a perceived lack of intimacy with other people or ourselves.” (Nick Wignall)

Loneliness & Dependence tactics: 

  • Become the person who induces the sense of “connectedness”, “love and belonging” he is looking for.
  • Identify and maintain Lonetree’s causes for loneliness. 

Loneliness & Social anxiety: 

Loneliness in the context of social anxiety can be a result of: A) “Fear of being judged or thought ill of by others, B) Fear of being too anxious in the presence of others—and being judged or thought badly of because of it.”

Social anxiety prevention tactics: 

  • You need to ensure that Lonetree’s fear of being judged or thought ill of by you is greater than that of the people he works with.
  • You need to reverse Lonetree’s fear of being anxious by encouraging him to judge and think badly of the people he’s working with/ for. 

Trauma tactics: 

“Trauma is when an especially frightening, painful, or disturbing event leads to a sustained fear/anxiety response.”

  • You need to identify the initial trauma which led Lonetree to feel isolated and disaffected in his youth – help him recount and relive his story when he’s with you. 
  • Provide him with the sense that you recognise who he actually is, and respect how hard he’s worked to overcome his challenges – be the source of love and belonging he didn’t have when growing up. 
  • Triggering the re-experience of trauma is something you’ll do occasionally to prevent him from gaining too much self esteem/ building confidence. 
  • To all intents and purposes he should believe you’re supporting and helping to build him up, when in reality, your job is to maintain optimal levels of operational stress. 
  • Using “intermittent reinforcement”, he’ll become addicted to the highs you provide and aversive to the lows which behaviour which doesn’t meet y/our needs induces. For example: Provide him with rewards for compliance, create a social distance for non-compliance. Withhold rewards on an infrequent basis as a means of having him work harder for his rewards. 

Impressionable – seduction by first impression: 

  • Have a calculated look, style and approach which meets with Lonetree’s criteria for relatability, credibility, desirability and engagement. 
  • Adapt your style of being and communication to match his before taking the lead. Be interested to learn about his values and adopt them as your own…
  • Lonetree is looking for alignment with others who are like him and like him. 

Psychological Rationale & Recommendations: Protecting Lonetree:

If Lonetree would have received the following advice from the manipulator, how might things have turned out differently?

Loneliness: Defensive Awareness:

If you find yourself further isolating from friends, family or colleagues… If you find yourself making me the person/ place where you get your needs met, I’ve probably extracted everything I need to make my exit. You’ll end up feeling lonely and dejected to the point where you’ll look for and find something to reignite my interest in you. 

Social anxiety: Defensive Awareness:

If you are negatively appraised by me as a result of not complying or acting in accordance with my mandates or expectations, (you should evaluate the benefits of maintaining or developing our relationship). 

  • I want to understand what triggers your fear of being judged. In doing so, I’ll learn how to allay or exacerbate your fear of judgement. Why? In a state of anxiety, it’s easier to lead and manipulate you, helping you to avoid your anxiety through complying with my requests, (is my aim). 

Trauma: Defensive Awareness:

You’ll find yourself sharing more about yourself in our first meetings than you would normally. There’ll be an almost felt need to “tell everything”. You’ll find me listening and finding the exact response you were hoping for. When you’ve come to like and trust me, you’ll find some of my conversational subjects and comments lead to your re-experiencing the trauma you shared with me. You’ll likely feel like, it’s you, that you’re too sensitive. This is a red flag – you should distance yourself. 

Impression-ability: Defensive Awareness:

  • Occasionally my mask will drop, you’ll hear a question, statement or comment which is in no way, shape or form aligned with the values, beliefs and attitudes I propose to own. 
  • You may also have a sense of dis-ease after enjoying a nice time together with me… take this to be a sub-conscious indication that your perception or behaviour has been manipulated… alternatively, you may have picked up on subtle incongruencies which inevitably leak out of me from time to time. 

Summary: This article should have provided you with the insight required to better consider how your own emotional vulnerabilities could be used against you. With respect to protecting yourself against manipulation, self awareness and self knowledge being the basis for a solid defence.

Share this article

Recent posts